The Arab Spring
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The Arab Spring

An Essay on Revolution and Constitutionalism

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet

Approaching the concept of Islamic constitutionalism from a comparative perspective, this thought-provoking study by Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet uses traditional Western political theory as a lens to develop a framework for analyzing the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’. Writing with clarity and insight, the authors place Western and Arabic traditions into a constructive dialogue. They focus on whether we can develop a ‘theory of revolutions’ that helps us understand events occurring at divergent times at geographically separate locations.
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Chapter 2: Islamic constitutionalism and the Arab Spring

Antoni Abat i Ninet and Mark Tushnet


This chapter is an exercise in legal theory and comparative law. The first section deals with the link between constitution and revolutions, treating the constitution as the last stage of a revolutionary process. It evaluates the relevance of the American revolutionary and constitutional experience to the most recent revolutions in the Arab Spring. We trace some of the problems and challenges that the Founding Fathers and Drafters faced in Philadelphia and thereafter in the process of constitutional founding. Acknowledging the fact that constitutionally relevant events everywhere continue to occur, we then attempt to describe the current reality that the constituent powers face in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. The second section analyzes the constitutional identitarian challenges that appear in every constitutional founding – that is, the ways in which national identities are shaped and presented in constitutional foundings. We compare disharmonies and failures of different constitutional systems and how the constituent powers have dealt with them. Some of these questions may actually be present in the minds of the post-revolutionary constituent powers, which are also facing important identity challenges. In this sense, the chapter examines the identitarian questions that the Arab Spring has already opened. The following section deals with the rule of law in Arab postrevolutionary scenarios from two different perspectives, that of the equal protection of laws and that of Arab exceptionalism. The rule of law is of course a central topic in liberal constitutional democracies, and the Arab countries are not exempt from discussions of it.

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